Category: 101 Cookbooks

The quest for easy, fresh-baked bread…Mission accomplished? (Updated)


The other day, I tried this recipe from Natalie Oldfield’s Gran’s Kitchen cookbook (via 101 Cookbooks).

Why should you even click on the above link to the recipe?

  • No kneading
  • yeasty bread
  • Start to finish (including the time it takes for the bread to rise) in under 2 hours
  • Oatmeal, whole wheat, versatile wholesome-y, tweak-able goodness.

Do it.

I spritzed the loaf with olive oil and sprinkled whole wheat flakes on top before popping it into the oven. Nutty goodness ensued.

Mine was a little bit on the crumbly side after a few hours and a few slices, but I threw the remaining slices into the oven under the broiler (ever-so-quickly), and they made for great toast (with great peanut butter) the next morning.

Mostly, I like this recipe because I can time things so My Man comes home at about the same time I’m taking fresh bread out of the oven. Clever girl. (Yeah, that’s right…my house smells like fresh-baked bread. Hah!)

So, why does the title of this post end with a question mark?

I’ve got a bold tweak in the oven at the moment. I had some bread-machine mix (no bread machine, mind you) for 7 grain bread in the cupboard, so I used it in place of the flours/oats in the original recipe. But then I added salt. And yeast, like the recipe calls for. I suspect that was a bad move, since the mix had these things already. However, the mix had been opened, so I thought some of the yeast might be bust by now. To compensate (really, just because it’s what I do), I threw in a handful of whole wheat flakes and a handful of wheat germ.

I tasted the batter after scooping it into the loaf pan, and it was salty. I might be able to boot and rally, but I’m not sure.

So, we’ll see if I screwed the pooch on this one. It won’t be a reflection on the recipe if I did, so I still encourage you to try it.

The original bread has a whiff of sweetness to it (because of the oatmeal and the whisper of honey), but I think you could easily throw in dried herbs, or conversely add some cinnamon or nutmeg to sex it up according to your needs.

I’m off to check on the bread…and then to contemplate why bending, squatting, putting on and taking off shoes, etc. got so difficult all of a sudden. A couple of weeks ago, my little dude still gave me room. Now he’s hogging up my uterus. Naughty muppet. I’m grounding him until birth.

Post Script

Holy crap, I can’t believe I got away with that bread.

I expected a hard (or alien-like poofiness of a blob) brick of salty nastiness.

As it turned out, I have a slightly salty, very whole grain, high fiber, hearty  yet moist and soft (on the inside) bread.

Awesome.

My standards are pretty flex when it comes to eating my own food… but here’s the thing: my Portuguese man likes the bread.

Success, friends, by the skin of my teeth.

And now I’m more confident about baking.

Boa.

Why I’ll never be a food blogger…


Sigh. I love food. I love cooking. I love eating. I love sharing. Alas, I’ll never be a food blogger. Here’s why:

1. My kitchen has no natural light. Even on sunny days. But for 6 months of the year, we don’t have sunny days. I have an aging, struggling fluorescent bulb in the middle of the ceiling in the kitchen. Unless I make a light box and decide to make a concerted effort to take photographs of food as I’m preparing it and after I’ve completed the dish, I’m not gonna make the cut. People want pretty. Since most of what I make is simple, easy, and quick, pausing for contrived photos is counter-intuitive.  Perhaps that should be a resolution of mine this year… What do you think? Are my quick and dirty recipes useful shareware? Or does everyone pretty much know how to wing this stuff already?

Anyway, Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks knows how to do it. She even posted a tutorial 😉 Man, she’s cool.

2. I don’t own a rough-hewn wooden table.

3. I don’t own antique/eclectic/ceramic/farm-chic/uber-modern dishware/servingware/kitchen gear.

4. I don’t have a photographer hanging out while I cook.

5. I don’t follow recipes, nor do I generally write them down. Sometimes I use them as guides, but I (essentially) never follow recipes to the T.

Some options….

1. Suck it up. Take the time to record how much of whatever-it-is you are throwing into that bowl when you cook. Ignore the sense of futility in doing so.

2. Take photos anyway. Better to start bad than not to start at all.

3. Screw country chic. Go for working-class chic. Bring it back, a la Springsteen. Or ugly chic. Retro-Porto-Chic? Make it a thing?…. hmmmm…

4. Go YouTube on the situation. Start playing with the video recording options on the laptop and figure out its capacities (not much, I’m guessing). Try to get a friend or friends to help out. MAYBE just MAYBE one or two of my Portogirls would help me do this from time to time 😉 Consider getting a cheap-ish digital video recorder. And consider upgrading my wordpress page to have video capabilities. (We’re saving money these days, however, so the idea of spending more isn’t a great one…. would it be worthwhile? Would you reader(s) find video tutorials useful?)

Thoughts? Impressions? Ideas? Sympathy with my ugly under-lit kitchen? (Even if we do end up moving to that magic house, the kitchen is still old and ugly… but we have a yard there, so who gives a sh!t about kitchen decor 🙂 )

Top Hacks of the Week: Gradissima’s tweaked Shortbread cookies and Stuffed Roma Tomatoes recipes


Adjusting, tweaking, hacking- whatever you call it, taking an idea and making it work for you is fun.

I almost never follow entire recipes when I’m cooking. If I’m baking, I’ll use a few recipes as a guide, and if I’m cooking on the stove, I might consult recipes online to bolster (or to helpfully redirect) my ideas of what flavors might work well together.

Here are some recent successful hacks you might like:

1. Shortbread cookies

It all started with 101 Cookbooks (as it so often does). Last year (or before?) I fell in love with Heidi’s Pine Nut Rosemary Shortbread.  The outcome is awesome. You also come off like a pro if you whip these out over the holidays. Simple elegance – Check!

I plan on making these again for the holidays. I was planning to do some test-runs with the recipe because of my degree-less-oven, and since pine nuts are insanely expensive here, I just used rosemary.

They were righteous. And the tweaking continued…

After a whole lot of calories, I ended up with this go-to hack (half the fat of the original, mind you!)

Ingredients

  • 250g (2 cups) flour (white, wheat, whatever you want… but remember wheat absorbs more liquid, so you might need to do your own tweaking)
  • 1 tsp salt (you might use a whisper less than this…I love the salty undertone.)
  • 100 ml/approx. half a cup of olive oil (Extra Virgin, regular Virgin, or slutty…whatever kind you want)
  • 2 tbs Water (you might need a bit more if you are using whole wheat flour. Just use enough so that the dough is moist enough to make a log out of)
  • 2/3 c sugar (brown sugar, white sugar, raw sugar…it all works)

This is your base… Nowadays, I do four main flavor variations. You can mix these into the flour before combining ingredients, or you can manage it by making the dough and dividing it into multiple batches, mixing after the fact in separate bowls. It all pretty much works.

My current favorite variations:

  • Cinnamon/Canela (a sure Porto-pleaser, I always make some of these in case I’m the only one with a more ‘adventurous’ palate)
  • Saffron (red, flower-looking Turkish saffron from my mother-in-law plus yellow powder saffron from Sao Tome ) + Nutmeg/noz moscada
  • Rosemary (dried is fine…rub it in your fingers or grind it to break it into smaller pieces so you don’t feel like you are eating pine needles)
  • Cacao Nibs (I feel pretty superior about this one. We were in Sao Tome e Principe a couple of months ago, and I brought back a cacao pod, cut it open, scooped out the seeds, cleaned them, dried them for a week, then roasted and crushed them. Rockstar? Yes. Yes I am.)

How much of the seasonings should you add to the batch?  A generous amount. I do it until it looks good. With the Turkish saffron, I add enough so I can see pretty little flowers in my cookies, and then enough of the good-smelling things to make the mix smell good.

Ok. So, you have ingredients. Now what?

  • Mix. Form, shape, roll out on baking paper. Slice/cookie-cut/whatever your cookies from the flattened dough. Bake until just barely getting golden around the bottom edges touching the baking paper. Cool. Eat. (For more precise details, look at the original recipe. )

Helpful hint- I now use baking paper to excess. I roll out the dough between two sheets of baking paper (vegetal), and my rolling-pin (or wine bottle, if you haven’t got a rolling-pin… or your hands, if you want to go commando) doesn’t get goopy. Neither does my countertop.

I have one baking sheet, so when I’m doing batches, I have one in the oven (on baking paper, on the baking sheet), and one batch ready to go on another sheet of baking paper. When the first is done, I just switch out the paper (which doesn’t burn your hands) and leave the baking sheet in the oven.

You can also make a dough log and freeze it. I don’t know how long it lasts, but probably months.

At this point, I’d like to acknowledge that no self-respecting food blog is without photos. Not a problem, as my blog is quasi-nebulous at the moment, and it has no ego. It’s more a point of referral than anything else. The other blogs I’m directing you to have fantastic photos. Also, my gal pal in Azeitão will soon be contributing her mad photography skills to the foodhack endeavor. Hang tight, friends, hang tight.

2. Emptyouthefridgebeforeweleavetowntomorrow

Otherwise known as stuffed Roma tomatoes.

Lunch today involved leftover cannelloni for my man, eggs for me, and a tray full of stuffed Roma tomatoes. We leave tomorrow for a two-week holiday with my family in AZ, and we had to get rid of some food. In addition to about 6 Roma tomatoes, I had a half-used bag of shredded mozzarella.

I also had about 20 minutes before my man had to go back to work.

No problem.

  • Preheat oven.
  • Cut tomatoes in half. Scoop out the seeds. Discard the solid core bits and put some seedy-juicy bits in a bowl.
  • Take a tosta or two (if you live in Portugal, you have these somewhere in your kitchen. Otherwise, use croutons, or breadcrumbs) and crush it into the seedy-juicy-bit bowl.
  • Throw a heap of oregano in. Or another herb. And some salt. And whatever other flavor you want.
  • Mix it up. Throw in some cheese. Mix a little more.
  • Line tray with baking paper.
  • Put the tomato halves on the tray, fill with treats from the juicy bowl. Top with more shredded cheese.
  • Put them in the oven until they smell good, and until they look like you’d want to eat them.

The whole process took, like, ten minutes.

Ok. That’s two quickies to start with. I also made veggie dumplings/gyoza the other night, but I need to pack so I’ll write about that later.

Let me know if you have questions, comments, etc!

Spin-offs are the greatest…(Aka, hack of Baked Eggs via 101 Cookbooks)


I’ve been under the weather off-and-on for a couple weeks now (weather change, rain, hormones), and today’s surprise gift of sun in Mafrica came with a hovering sinus headache.

Whatev. More relevant to my general situation is that my man works nearby, and though the puppy and I are on our own for several hours a day, I get to feel like a contributing member of our young household for a solid two meals every day.

It’s not much, but I’m relatively new here, and I’m making the best of it.

The other week, I re-introduced to our kitchen an old faithful from Heidi Swanson’s fantastic online journal, 101 Cookbooks. Not only is she just lovely, the site is full of healthy, hearty, beautifully-varied recipes and stories, along with the requisite envy-inspiring photography.

So, on that day (the other week), my lunch menu came from Heidi’s Baked Eggs recipe.

And now, a note about my kitchen.

We live in a relatively old building. The outside is dismal and looks as though it has barnacles growing on the wall. (Yes, I know they are really lichens and such, but the idea of barnacles on my building amuses me. Incidentally, barnacles are considered a delicacy here.)

The inside of our apartment is actually pretty cute. There’s enough retro flare to maintain a theme. The kitchen is bigger than most small apartment kitchens. The refrigerator is tiny (european, of course) as is the freezer. The stove is gas, and I have no way of determining the temperature of the oven.

I like it that way. It absolves me of responsibility if the food doesn’t turn out.

Relevance? All recipes involving an oven, I wing. I peek and test and tinker. Thus I have no useful commentary to add about the baking times of recipes I cite here. I thought you should know.

Now, back to the eggs 🙂

The night before, we had had spicy bean burritos, and I had two tortillas and some spicy black beans left over. I also had a jar of salsa open. And, you know, some eggs.

I microwaved the tortillas just enough to soften them, tucked them down into a couple of ramekins (Continente, 50 cents each), spooned some black bean mixture in the bottom of the tortilla cup, and cracked a couple of eggs into each dish.

While those were baking (see Heidi’s recipe…I’m not responsible for those details), I made some sweet potato wedges in the oven (a bit of olive oil, sea salt, and rosemary).

If you have the right baking and serving dishes, it’s easy to make home-made (but slacker) food look wholesome and rustic. A nice, simple salad with baby spinach and roma tomatoes, or another attractive combination always helps.

Anyway, lunch was a success. A glass of red wine, and all was done.

Bringing it on home…

So, today, I feel a bit like poo. My man had meat (some burgers) he was going to cook for his lunch, so I threw some olive-oil coated frozen potato balls in the oven, and I prepped an omelet for myself.

Then I saw my happy little ramekin. And the crumbly, broken bits of the end of some very tasty, seeded bread we’d enjoyed this week.

Baking paper was soon cut into a square to line the ramekin. The bread was soon squished by hand to line said ramekin. The omelet mix awaiting the frying pan took a detour, into the ramekin and into the oven.

Yum. Cute. Pretty. Healthy-ish. And easy. Very, very easy.

I’ll figure out dinner in a couple of hours. 🙂